Guest Kween: LAURA BOUCHET “I’ve Felt Like An Imposter For Most Of My Career!”

Guest Kween: LAURA BOUCHET “I’ve Felt Like An Imposter For Most Of My Career!”

As I sat on the stage, my heart was thumping so loudly; I was certain the whole auditorium could hear it beat through my microphone.

A prickly heat rose through my body, my face was flushed and my eyes stung. I felt like if I took a breath, I was going to throw up right there in front of hundreds of my industry peers.

Let me digress for a second: I’m fully aware that so far this sounds like a middle-aged woman’s version of Eminem’s Lose Yourself but truth be told, I did feel very ‘8 Mile’ at the time. Okay, snap back to reality, I mean, back to my story!

Why was I, of all people, chosen to speak at this conference? “For god’s sake, don’t lift your arms, the sweat marks under there look like you’ve absorbed a swimming pool” Shit, I’ve been asked a question. “Why me? WHAT THE HELL DO I SAY NOW??!!”

This moment was meant to be the highlight of my radio career. I was supposed to sit in front of these people and speak about what I knew.

In a hazy blur (kind of like the camera work on The Blair Witch Project), I fumbled my way through the conference. People applauded, some even thanked me afterwards. Liars. That was a train wreck. I was a total imposter!

The next evening at the industry awards night, the same fools who asked me to speak on stage decided I would also win the highest accolade I could achieve for my job, ‘Best Show Producer’.

It was a huge honour but there wasn’t a single part of my soul that could enjoy any of it. I woke up the next morning with a feeling of dread and a terrible ache in my heart. I couldn’t stop thinking someone was going to knock on my door and tell me there’d been a terrible mistake. That I’d have to hand the trophy back. That I didn’t deserve it.

Hi, I’m Laura and for the past 12-ish years, I’ve been producing radio. Award winning number 1 radio.

Yep, but before I got here, I worked my butt off. From barbecuing sausages at promo events to stuffing prizes into padded envelopes; I got dirty, I woke up early, I stayed back late and I often did it for free.

I’ve now spent over a decade working with some of the most successful and respected media personalities in Australia and won ‘even’ more awards. I’ve also mentored young producers who have gone on to have their own brilliant careers.

Yet no matter how far up the ladder I climbed, that familiar waft of barbecued sausages from my first day would follow me. I was constantly waiting for someone to tap me on the shoulder, rip me down off that ladder and say out loud the words that were continually taunting me in my head “You don’t belong here”.

What I had was a giant, crippling dose of Imposter Syndrome.

To save you googling it, here’s the Wiki definition of ‘Imposter Syndrome’.

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’.

Doubts their accomplishments.  Check.

Fears being exposed as a fraud. Check. Check. Check.

Did I just win Imposter Syndrome Bingo?

Did you just call out “Bingo” too?

Imposter Syndrome is more common than I ever imagined, and it is particularly prevalent among women. Why? Well, probably for many, many reasons.

Here are some of the reasons I’ve identified based on my own experience:

A tendency to shrink around men. I really want to preface this by stating I love the industry I belong to, and the opportunities it’s presented me with. Like so many industries though, it is heavily dominated by men. Strong men with big personalities. Men who shine and command attention when they walk into a room. Have you ever shrunk yourself in the presence of a strong, shiny man? I sure have, countless times. These men, by the way, have every right to shine but it does not mean we have to shrink. Shrinking yourself only fuels Imposter Syndrome.

Common messages we hear, we think, we even say about other women.

They must have slept their way to the top.”

“They’re wearing their ‘close the deal’ skirt today.”

“Grow some balls.”

“You have to be more of a bitch to get ahead.”

You get the idea. Quite often it’s said in jest. But these shitty words are telling us that it’s unusual for women to succeed through hard work, intelligence and a career plan. This too fuels Imposter Syndrome.

Comparisons with other people. For me, that ‘other person’ was my own husband. (Yes, we are the clichéd product of a chance meeting by the office photocopier).

For a number of years, my husband and I were professional rivals, producing the #1 and #2 radio shows in Sydney; from within the same building.

It was a pretty sweet arrangement for the most part. Until my show beat his to the #1 spot.

He was gracious in defeat (at least to my face), but it was the innocent comments from other people that triggered old mate ‘Imposter Syndrome’ to flair up again.

“How’s HE doing?”

“Is HE okay?”

“I bet you’ll be cooking him his favourite dinner tonight!”

I couldn’t allow myself to enjoy that success. All I felt was that HE missed out on something that he deserved, therefore I didn’t deserve it at all.

Maternity Leave. When I returned to work nine months after having my little angel/spawn of Satan, my Imposter Syndrome was at an all-time high.

It didn’t matter that I had a supportive employer and a team who eagerly welcomed me back with open arms. This stupid stigma around getting knocked up and taking time out to birth a child remained, at least in my head. I felt like an Etch a Sketch. My career had been shaken clean and I had to prove myself all over again. And how on Earth was I going to fool them a second time?! Changing my identity from career woman to mother, to career woman/mother was a complete head-fuck.

Imposter Syndrome is an exhausting beast. It held me back from taking on new challenges. It stopped me from growing. But, the good news… Imposter Syndrome is totally unnecessary and surprisingly simple to let go of.

Here’s how I’m doing it:

I started doing massive cannonballs into swimming pools. I’m being extremely literal here. I used to be the ‘cautious, ease myself up to my waist then stand on my toes and gasp as the cold water hit my ribs’ kind of swimmer. Until I realised I was letting irrational fear and a bit of discomfort get in the way of my swimming time. So, instead, I took a run up and bombed the shit out of that pool. You can see the symbolism here, right? 

When I stopped timidly easing myself into the water, I stopped timidly easing myself into life. I realised I was never afraid that I was not good enough. I was afraid of my own freaking success. I was scared to make a splash. I was scared to shine!

I CHOOSE how I feel. This will freak you out but, an extremely wise woman told me that the physical feeling of anxiety (refer to the first lines of my Eminem-style prose) is the same physical feeling as excitement! Whenever I’m in a situation where I get that response in my body, I change the label to excitement. And it works for me every time.

I celebrate my wins. Big or small wins, it doesn’t matter. I reward myself with a beer, a fancy dinner, or a new pair of shoes. And I make sure I enjoy every delicious moment of it. Not because it might not happen again, but because I earned it.

I repeat weird little mantras to myself. Like this one (you’ve probably seen your grammar pedant friends post a similar line on FB) ‘With Imposter Syndrome, you know you’re shit. Without it, you know your shit’.

This is not a modern day, happily ever after fairy tale by the way. In fact, there’s probably no ending to this at all. I still have many moments where that dreaded feeling kicks in. But it doesn’t control me anymore. I’ve decided that who I am is more than good enough AND if I need a reminder, I find myself a swimming pool.

Bombs away. xx

Laura is an award-winning radio producer who has worked with some of Australia’s most loved media personalities. She met her husband at the work photocopier and together they’re raising a mini-copy of themselves, little Juliette. Laura once got busted asking a colleague if she was ‘prettier than Giuliana Rancic’ by none other than Giuliana Rancic. 🤣

Laura also enjoys making drunk purchases on Ebay, because it feels like Christmas every time the delivery guy knocks on the door with a surprise package.

📸: @laurambouchet

The disappearing act that is anything but magic.

The disappearing act that is anything but magic.

Funny. This was going to be a post about how blissfully happy I was.

Yep, surprisingly, ridiculously, over the moon happy.

For the month of Jan, I was alcohol-free, back in the dating game, killing it at work; in control of my life. Things could not have been more magical.

My best friend joked that I should shut down the #STFTL blog “What will you have to write about now that you’re happy?”

SPOILER ALERT: turns out. A fucking LOT! Welcome to the black magic show.

For the last 31 days, I was seeing this guy.

A guy who was all levels of wonderful. He was sweet, kind, thoughtful. He left me voice memos every morning before work and in the evening when he was on his way home. He messaged me while he was at his desk in the office. He called me before he went to sleep at night. He wanted to see me on the weekends. Saturday and Sunday.

We didn’t drink when we were together. There was no need for wine to spark chemistry. We had coffee dates, went for walks in the park and sat for romantic meals. We made out in public. We were intimate behind closed doors.

He pursued me. It was a lot. I liked the attention. I was wary at first. But it was like a drug, the more he gave, the more I wanted. I got used to the interaction, almost like it was normal. I forgot what I did with my time without it. Friends claimed we were in a love bubble. I thought so too. Until that bubble popped, with a bang.

Our relationship escalated quickly, but not in a way where it was ‘too good to be true’, in the way like it was ‘supposed to be’. He met my friends and didn’t seemed rattled, I cooked for him at his place, and he didn’t get food poisoning. I thought to myself: is this what people mean when they have found ‘the one’?

I told myself “Don’t be stupid!” This isn’t ‘the one’. But my god. What if it was? People who end up together, always state “You know, when you know”. Was this the universe letting me know?

There were no games. No bullshit. It just was. Until it wasn’t.

You see as a female, who’s been single for most of her life, you become accustomed to a certain behaviour or lifestyle. You’ve read all the self-help books and watched all the rom-coms. And regardless of what you were brainwashed to believe as a young girl, you know how these things really play out. You’ve learnt the hard way.

When you thought it was right: it was wrong.

When you thought he was into you: he wasn’t.

When you thought it was serious: he just wanted to fuck you.

When you thought it was exclusive: welcome to the other five women he was seeing at the same time.

You remember when you were first blindsided. You recall the moment you first put your wall up. You try to forget the time your heart first snapped in half. These days you look for every one of those signs, to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

To get through this, you tell jokes about only attracting ‘fuck boys’ and how you’re destined to be a cat lady. You make no rules when it comes to dating. You always follow his lead at the start, because you’ve been wrong before. So many times before. 

You now know not to get your hopes up. You’re always waiting for the fall out. You get used to what it’s like to be alone. You train yourself to be comfortable with being alone. 

You preach that you’re not the kind of girl who enters a relationship lightly; but boy, do you want the heavy.

You crave the all-consuming-breath-taking-swept-off-your-feet-music-playing-in-the-background-roll-the-credits heavy feeling of falling for someone, who’s equally falling for you. Dare I write it, you might just want the fairy tale?

You are now tough. Hard. The edges form when you smile, when you say hello, when you laugh loudly at a dinner party.

Deep down you know you only want to be loved and that this toughness you project to the world is just a facade; an armor you built from no one ever really loving you. You now think it’s impossible for someone to love you, because it hasn’t happened yet. You believe it never will.

So, when someone shows you the opposite, that you could be loved. You believe them instead. Almost straight away.

You’re too much. You’re an acquired taste. So, this must be special.

Someone has finally figured out how to want you. How to love you. You’ve been waiting your whole life to be this happy. But you also know your heart can’t cope with misinterpreting the signs again.

You’ve been the giddy one: when you receive a text after the first date. You’ve felt the butterflies: after the first kiss. But you’ve also left his place in tears: after the first time you slept together because what the night was before, is no longer in the light.

So, you’re careful not to get it confused. You’re cautious.

You know these events have made you difficult and bitter and complicated and sad. You know these feelings all too well, like a second skin. You’ve learnt to wear it well though. You now dress it up. Make it look pretty for everyone to see.

You know all of this because this isn’t your first rodeo. You know what you sound like and what you look like when you get caught up in these moments. You know the danger.

You’ve gushed to everyone about ‘the boy’ before and then had to take it back. You’ve seen that look in your friend’s eyes before when you talk about another failed attempt at a relationship. You know what you now put out into the world. You’re jaded.

So, you’re careful, so very, very cautious to not do it again.

Until you do.

Here you go once more, you’re caught up in the ecstasy of it. He’s saying all the right things, he’s doing all the right things, how could you be wrong this time? No, this time it’s real.

You write messages about how cute he is, or how you miss him because there’s no need to hide how you feel; he’s reaching out and responding in the exact same way. You don’t want to think it’s going to end because that’s maybe why it always does? You remain optimistic.

You tell your friends you’re seeing someone because it’s been going on for a while now. You haven’t told all your friends though, just in case. Your past experiences have you always slightly clinging to the ‘just in case’.

You tell yourself to not be negative. Then you constantly fear you’ll ruin it with your insecurities and self-doubt.

What if this goes away? What will you say? What will you do this time? How can you go back to how your life was before?

You don’t want to go back to being the strong girl, the funny girl, the drunk girl, the girl who is excited for her friends but never for herself.

What if it all disappears?

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Well…

When someone decides to disappear, there’s no magic in it at all.

If you were a part of the decision, you’d be brave in front of them and everyone else too. You would come to terms with it eventually. Even though it’s killing you.

If you were a part of the decision, there would be a conversation, a phone call, a voice memo, a text; evidence to loop you in. How the communication began, is how you think it will end. You at least deserve that; you can be adults about it.

Right? No.

When someone decides without you, it’s childish. So, you act like a child. You transform into the narrative of the ‘crazy person’.

There’s no answer. Except the obvious one, that it’s over. You somehow still want answers. But it isn’t wrapped up in a conversation, a phone call, a voice memo, a text… it’s silence. It’s the phone ringing to voicemail, it’s no blue ticks in a Whatapp chat, it’s a simple delete from a dating app.

You follow this with more acts of desperation than you ever care to dial or send or admit but something takes over you. You’re angry. You’re devastated. You act like a two-year-old.

You don’t hold back because there’s nothing left to lose. Except your dignity but you’ve lost that before.

You prove him right, again and again by doing all the things you’d swear you‘d never do; adding to the story line of ‘the psycho girl I used to date’.

You over-justify in your explanations to your friends as to ‘why’ you texted and called so many times, but you don’t tell them all the details because you know you’ve gone too far.

The silence is deafening. But it’s loud. So loud. Why did you get to be ‘the one’ to decide? How are you making this bold move but dancing like a coward at the same time?

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Hang on a minute. Why don’t I just accept it? And move on?

For so long you’ve claimed that you wouldn’t ‘settle for average’, that you’d rather be ‘alone than lonely’ in a relationship. So, what the fuck are you doing giving into this shit?

You’d tell your friend she didn’t deserve this, that it’s for the best he disappeared!! So why the hell are YOU being like this?

Because. Because you knew things had changed. You asked him, you gave him an out; offering multiple doors to exit. But he said no, everything is fine. So, you believed him. You put it down to being paranoid again.

You’re embarrassed, humiliated that you’re so emotional over someone who’s blatantly disregarded you.

But slow your roll sister, you’ve had this before.

Right? Yes.

So, why is this still destroying you?

Because. Because the little girl inside of you is struggling to figure out how she could once again fall for someone so sweet, so kind, so thoughtful. A person who is now this kind of evil.

You attack yourself first. Over think. Over analyse.

Because he set the pace and you went along for the ride.

You only expected him to message because he messaged you all the time. You couldn’t put the phone down without another vibration. You only expected him to call because he called you all the time. Like that time he drove back and forth to Brighton. You only expected to see him this weekend because there was a time when he wanted to see you every weekend. Saturday and Sunday. 

Making plans became your ‘go to dialogue’. Plans for your birthday, plans for Valentine’s Day, plans for Christmas, the future…

Nevertheless, you were deleted from his world, as fast as you were let in. You were hopeful, fearless, happy, though you were wrong, once again. 

One Thursday afternoon, after I messaged you ‘Freezing! How’s your day?’ You went away.

I doubled checked if I sent too many messages in a row. Was I now asking too much? No, I was responding to your message of ‘How cold are you this morning?’ I go back to our last phone conversation. Had I said too much? No, we chatted about mundane things like what you had for dinner.

You went away. You decided you were done. You decided not to tell me why. It didn’t make sense. So, my ugly grew.

I’m not proud of what was next. I will always regret how I reacted to you finishing it.

I thought if I spat enough venom, you’d get fed up and finally bite back. I’d hear from you. I’d hear the words, instead of the words and reasons and scenarios I’m making up in my mind. But I know nothing.

There’s one thing I do know though. I swear that this would never have been my reaction to a rational, respectful, honest end.

The disappearing act is not a magical thing. It’s designed to point out your flaws and faults. It’s designed to make you think it was all your doing. Because that’s what you do when someone disappears, you blame yourself first.

The only magic that actually appears, is the proof that this was never right to begin with. But that doesn’t matter at the time.

The disappearing act comes in many forms, it can be the loss of one’s feelings; off it goes like a switch. The blocking of a mobile number; off it goes like a switch. The flip of your stomach; off it goes like a switch. The youth of today call it ‘ghosting’; off it goes… nope it doesn’t work for that one.

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The problem with ghosts though, they haunt you.

Where did you go? Where did we go? What did I do? Will this haunt me forever?

I know sometimes it’s easier to just disappear. But all it really does is just prolong the toxic finale; tarnishing anything that was ever good or decent between you both. It encourages a monster to appear from the cloud of smoke and act out in a disgraceful way. Because there’s no grace in disappearing. There’s no applause.

It’s gutless. It’s cruel. It’s not necessary.

The only thing worse than being broken up with, is realising that someone didn’t even consider to break up with you.

Next time someone says it ended badly because ‘they were mental’, ‘they wouldn’t stop messaging me’. Ask yourself why they went mental, why they wouldn’t stop contacting that person. Ask yourself if you want to be next?

My only regret is I believed his version of the events. I’m ashamed that I believed him over her. I should have believed her.

Tonight, I write a post about how miserable I am. How utterly depressed these series of events have made me.

You disappeared. You are a ghost to me now. And I should be thankful for that. I will one day be thankful. Sadly, it’s not today.

Yep, unlike the fairy tales, not everything that happens to you as a grown woman has a ‘happily ever after’. So, no best friend, this blog will exist. The fairy tales are still lying to me.

Are they lying to you too?

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Carmela is an Aussie in London with wanderlust. A TV/Radio rebel. Fierce feminist. Loud laugh-er. Emotional eat-er. Pop culture cat. Red wine wooer and karaoke kween. She hopes that her experiences are just like yours, funny, warm, loud, raw and that maybe you can figure out this thing called ‘life’ together. #YasssKween 🙌🏼

Meet CARMELA CONTARINO: The Power Kween Behind ‘So The Fairy Tales Lied…’

Meet CARMELA CONTARINO: The Power Kween Behind ‘So The Fairy Tales Lied…’

How much do you really know about Carmela Contarino: the woman behind your fav fem blog ‘So The Fairy Tales Lied…‘?

Did you know she’s Australian? (From a small town called Bunbury, Western Australia.) But spent her 20s in Sydney and now resides in London? Yasss, she’s a big city gal now!

Did you know as a child, she was chubby, rocked an afro/mullet, had too much body hair and was teased mercifully for looking a ‘bit like a boy’? Luckily, this birthed oodles of personality, a wicked sense of humour, a resilient attitude and effortless unique style: hello headscarves and colour clashing!!

Did you know as a young girl, Carmela was a competitive dancer and had her own Hip Hop/Funk/Jazz dance school (which opened the door to 200 students) at 19? These days though, she mostly dances like Ellen.

Did you know at the age of 24, she also had her own breakfast radio show in the biggest commercial market in Australia? She’s met and interviewed most A-list celebrities but she has also worked most minimum-wage jobs too, like being a hairdresser’s receptionist, waitress, bartender and shop assistant. Yep, she can pour a mean beer! She’s now the talent booker and entertainment content producer for the Bauer Media Group in the UK looking after radio (KISS/Magic/Absolute), print (Heat/Closer) and digital.

Did you know she auditioned for Idol, X Factor, Big Brother but ended up casting talent for those TV shows instead? Carmela’s vice now is drunk karaoke: better known as Trashioke. 

Did you know at the age of 33, she’s never really had a ‘proper’ boyfriend? (No one she’s introduced to her parents or brought over to the family home for Christmas lunch.) Cue the numerous awkward convos with Uncles: “So do you have a special man in your life? Or woman?”

Did you know her idols are Bette Midler, Whoopi Goldberg, Lena Dunham and Taylor Swift? Because, obviously.

Did you know she’s still close with her friends from primary/high school? That group and the people she surrounds herself with today, are the inspo behind #STFTL.

Of course you don’t! Because 70% of stories on ‘So The Fairy Tales Lied…‘ are about and written by other wonderful, fabulous and brave women and men (which Carmela couldn’t be more proud of).

So, how did Carmela end up being who she is today? Is it the roller coaster of her colourful past?

Why does she champion and cherish other women so fiercely? Why is her mum one of her best friends?

Why does she have utter compassion for the underdog or someone down on their luck?

Find out as Carmela exclusively opens up about her world to Greg Stocks on his podcast ‘Life Chats With Greg’.

 

Carmela is an Aussie in London with wanderlust. A TV/Radio rebel. Fierce feminist. Loud laugh-er. Emotional eat-er. Pop culture cat. Red wine wooer and karaoke kween. She hopes that her experiences are just like yours, funny, warm, loud, raw and that maybe you can figure out this thing called ‘life’ together. #YasssKween 🙌🏼

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Guest Kween: JANINE PLANT “Life After A Toxic Relationship.”

Guest Kween: JANINE PLANT “Life After A Toxic Relationship.”

I climbed into bed a few nights ago and my husband immediately shuffled close to me. He wrapped himself around me and got his body as close to mine as physically possible; every inch of our skin was entwined. I smiled and relaxed into him.

I had a sudden flashback to about four years ago, it was my nightly mission to get as close as possible to my edge of the bed; as far away from my ex-husband as I could. When I heard him approaching our room or falling in the door after a ‘work dinner’ at 2am, I would almost stop breathing in an attempt to keep my body still; so he didn’t think I was awake.

Amazing what can change in four years.

I met my ex-husband at the ripe old age of 21. I was naïve, immature as all hell, vulnerable, amenable and easily influenced. I had just been dating a guy who suddenly decided he was into someone else, so I was craving love and affection.

My ex-husband was 11 years older than me. From the moment we met at a mutual friend’s wedding it was go, go, go.

Ever heard of the term love bombing? It’s the practice of overwhelming someone with signs of adoration and attraction. It’s never ending flattery and attention.

-It’s constant text messages, a day after you’ve just met.

-It’s tokens of affection, elaborate gifts and surprise international flights to swan around in a hotel, while he attends work dinners.

-It’s talks of having children together, when you’ve only known each other a month.

-It’s taking you away to a secluded beach shack, for your second date.

-It’s flowers delivered to your work, so everyone knows what a ‘great’ guy he is.

-It’s surprise appearances that are designed to have you spend more time with the love bomber and less time with others or on your own.

You get the picture.

Love bombing is intoxicating at first, it’s all encompassing. Reading the above paragraphs now, I just think ‘woah, creepy’ but at the time, it was charming; I felt special, amazing, loved.

Now, not everyone who whispers sweet nothings in your ear is a narcissistic jerk, but if you’re feeling that something just isn’t quite right about the person or the relationship you’re in, you should trust it. Yep, if your partner is constantly telling you ‘how good you are together’ but your longest, dearest friends disagree, if your gut is screaming at you that something is just ‘off’ and you’re so anxious you’re grinding your teeth in your sleep and chewing the inside of your mouth, then there’s a pretty good chance something isn’t right.

Love bombing feels great, until it doesn’t.

It feels great until….

-You are endlessly confused because nothing you say or do seems to be right, even when you’re pretty darn sure you didn’t say or do anything wrong.

-There are so many seeds of self-doubt planted in your head, that you’re growing a fucking tree of self-doubt out of there.

-You’ve given up your dream job, which you went to uni for five years to work towards, because you think you’re too dumb to do it.

-Your boyfriend proposes to you in front of your family (knowing you won’t say no that way), and you find yourself curled in a ball crying yourself to sleep on your engagement night.

-Your husband (who earns a lot of money) sits in a bank and manipulates you into taking out a $16 000 personal loan under your name because he has a ‘bad credit rating’ and then somehow convinces you in the car park afterwards that you’re a bad person for thinking it’s a little weird.

-Your 35 year old husband starts coming home on weeknights at all hours of the morning and spends his Saturday nights playing online poker with his mates, getting wasted and you get in trouble for being upset about it.

-You find endless webpage listings for ‘Perth escort services’ on your fiance’s computer and he lies to you and tells you it was his cousin, and you believe him.

Yes, love bombing feels awesome, until you actually don’t even know who you are anymore.

Enter: gas lighting.

Gas lighting, to manipulate someone by psychological means into doubting their own sanity. A malicious and hidden form of emotional abuse, designed to plant seeds of self doubt and alter your perception of reality.

Love bombing morphs into gaslighting pretty quickly. You are so bound up in the love bomber’s web of manipulation that you literally don’t realise it’s happening, until things start to feel really, really wrong.

Some days I just didn’t speak at all, because it seemed easier. We had no money, despite him earning an annual salary four times what I could ever dream of earning. I knew he was using drugs but the couple of times I tried to confront him about it, he laughed in my face and made me feel awful for even thinking it.

So the day I finally plucked up enough courage to leave my ex-husband was hands down, the most invigorating and empowering day of my life.

I had just spent a weekend away for a girlfriend’s wedding. My husband did not enjoy hanging out with these particular friends (I see now it’s because they were smart enough to know better).

I was sitting with my girlfriends, listening to them talk about their experiences as occupational therapists and suddenly I sat up straighter in my chair. I heard the passion in their voices and I remembered that I used to talk like that!

My first job out of uni was working in an acute stroke rehab ward; where I would use my knowledge of the nervous system to help people relearn how to brush their teeth and dress themselves. I thought I knew how to make a difference in people’s lives but my ex-husband had been very encouraging when I said to him one day, “I’m not cut out for this job. I’m just no good at it.” He supported me into leaving the profession I loved so much and then made me feel bad about how little money I had.

It was in that moment, sitting with my girlfriends, that I knew I had to leave. So many things had happened in the lead up to it but somehow it was witnessing that particular conversation, and feeling like an outsider (when I should have been right there in it) that made it all fall into place.

I drove the five hours back home, told him it was over, packed a bag and spent the next three months living in friends’ spare bedrooms.

I share this story not to have a good ol’ bitch about my ex-husband or to shame him in any way; I hold no anger towards him (anymore). I’m sure we both really believed that we loved each other at some point in our lives. I don’t believe he had a malicious intention to inflict so much pain and hurt. We were just two very different, very incompatible humans.

I share this story because I know how easy it is to be manipulated and not realise it’s happening.

I share this story because I’ve met countless other women who took 20 or 30 years to get out of these toxic relationships; amazing, incredible women who are still healing and trying to remember who they are.

I share this story because you can find yourself in an absolute shit storm of toxicity, manipulation, debt, loneliness and yet still have the strength to stand up to a narcissist and remove yourself from the situation.

I share this story because it happens ALL THE TIME.

If one person who is in an emotionally abusive relationship reads this and finds the strength to take the steps they need to remove themselves too, then that’s all I can hope for.

Today, three and a half years after shutting a door and opening a new one, that giant tree of self doubt has reduced to a seedling.

Don’t get me wrong, the voice is still there. If I spill my coffee, drop something or forget to do something at work, an automatic voice in my head is triggered immediately, “You fucking idiot, you’re so useless Janine, sort your shit out! Of course you spilt your coffee, of course you did!!”

Thankfully, I now find myself in a real world of love, kindness and simplicity with a man who won’t let me talk to myself like that.

Four months ago I married my soul mate. I asked him to marry me, in a very normal, non-dramatic kinda way; there was no grand gesture. It was just us, together, camping in the pouring rain (as you do) and I said “Hey Kimbo, wanna marry me?”

He appreciates the simple things in life.

Every Tuesday we have tacos for dinner and every single time it’s like he’s never eaten tacos before. Every night as he rolls into bed, he sighs in absolute bliss about how comfy our bed is. He lives authentically. Appreciating every moment for exactly what it is. Nothing is ever a drama. Ever.

For a while, this was hard to get used to. For five years of my life, I lived in an environment of confusion, lies and drama. Oh the drama. So much drama!!

With Kimbo there are no over-the-top declarations of love or ridiculously expensive dinners or gifts. There is adventure, there is fun and there is of course, love. There is an appreciation of the things in life that actually matter.

I remember the first time he got me flowers, we hadn’t been dating all that long. He got home before me and put them in a glass on the kitchen bench; they weren’t in plain view, just chilling near the sink. There was no mention of it. No begging for recognition. Just a simple act of appreciation. I looked at those flowers (lilies, my fave) and watched him walk around my kitchen, drying my dishes and wiping down my bench tops and felt so genuinely overwhelmed with love, I nearly passed out.

I guess that’s another reason why I’m sharing this story, to show how recovering from a bad relationship can make you so appreciative of the good ones.

It’s the days that break you, that make you.

It’s the tough things that happen to us that help us grow and put ourselves on the path to the best things that will ever happen to us.

I believe that everything we encounter in this life really helps to pave our journey, to build our character and teach us lessons.

Ladies, if you’re in a relationship that feels wrong, it’s wrong.

Trust your gut.

Listen to yourself.

Do what you need to do to find out who you are again, because you’re so worth it.

Janine Plant is a Bunbury gal. She’s a proud mumma to her feather babies (chooks), step-mum to a beautiful little boy and wifey to her soulmate, Kim. Known amongst her friends and family as the resident tree hugger, she’s also a yoga teacher, vegan, nature and animal loving free spirit. With all this in mind, still never get between her and her morning triple shot Bonsoy latte! 

13 reasons why (I love myself sick).

13 reasons why (I love myself sick).

1. I’m not ashamed to order a small family’s worth of McDonalds and to tell the cashier that I’m pregnant. So they make it fresh.

2. I’m not ashamed to spend an entire sunny bank holiday weekend on my friend’s couch, binging on episodes of ‘Love Island’. While eating a whole tub of Nutella.

3. I’m not ashamed to have had at one time only £12 in my bank account and to have spent that on humous, cheese and bread. The good bread!

4. I’m not ashamed that I ball my eyes out like a baby every time I watch Will Smith in the ‘Pursuit of Happiness’. Every. Time.

5. I’m not ashamed that if I want to look 5 pounds lighter, I think of getting a spray tan but then chicken out because that means standing in front of a perfect stranger naked. Exercise also never presents it’s self as the best option.

6. I’m not ashamed that the only thing I can successfully cook in the kitchen is a salad and a toasted cheese sandwich. I once called my Mother and asked her how to boil pasta. 🤦🏻‍♀️

7. I’m not ashamed that the only time I ever shave my lady parts is when I think I might be gettin’ some. So rarely.

8. I’m not ashamed that on one particular day, the only time I left the house was just to buy donuts. And successfully ate 4 in one sitting.

9. I’m not ashamed that recently I was so hungover that I ordered Deliveroo 3 times in one day. From the same restaurant. That restaurant may or may not have been McDonalds as well.

10. I’m not ashamed to respond with ‘sorry I’m busy tonight’ when all I’m doing is heading home to wash my hair and pop my pjs on. And watch Love Island.

11. I’m not ashamed to take myself out for a dinner and a show. Solo dining is liberating AF! Even when you have to respond “No, just just me” when the waiter says “Table for 2?”

12. I’m not ashamed to have 3 different dating apps on my phone and that I still gush over a guy, if he shows me the slightest bit of attention. Seriously. Yesterday a guy emailed me at work and I had zero chill about it. A fucking email!

13. I’m not ashamed that I was ashamed about these silly little things in my twenties. How fucking cool is it to be in your thirties?

How fucking cool is slowly giving zero fucks about the stuff that would of had you stay indoors or kept you up at night when you were younger?

There is something fucking cool about slowly settling into your own skin and scars. There is something fucking cool about staring at your flaws and imperfections and charging forward anyway because you now know there are other parts of you that are just as flawless and perfect; and that needs to be celebrated too!

Oh the wonder of simply sitting with your own quirks and weirdo moments, without needing someone else to validate them. The bliss of having the ability to feel really good and not good at the same time, because let’s be honest, happiness is not a destination.

No matter how hard we try, we will never arrive at ‘happy’. We’ll drive past it, around it, and stop at it, many times. What’s fucking cool is how we’ve also learnt what to do when we arrive at the other stops, like ‘uncertainty’, ‘misery’ and ‘devastation’.

If getting older simply means loving yourself sick just a little more every day and pulling through the ugly stuff with gusto; then bring that shiz onnnn!

I also encourage you to make a *list. It sounds small and pointless but give it a go. I promise not only will you feel better but at the very least, have a good chuckle at your fine self.

Yasss Kween!

Big love,

Carmela

*Your list may not have as many food references as mine. I mean, if loving carbs is wrong, I don’t want the be right! Riiiight? #Guilty 💁🏻‍♀️

Introducing Carmela Contarino, the #PowerKween behind ‘So The Fairy Tales Lied…’ 👸🏻♥️✨

Carmela is an Aussie in London with wanderlust. A TV/Radio rebel. Fierce feminist. Loud laugh-er. Emotional eat-er. Pop culture cat. Red wine wooer and karaoke kween. She hopes that her experiences are just like yours, funny, warm, loud, raw and that maybe you can figure out this thing called ‘life’ together. #YasssKween 🙌🏼

Guest Kween: BELINDA COTTON “I Failed At My Chosen Career But I Survived!”

Guest Kween: BELINDA COTTON “I Failed At My Chosen Career But I Survived!”

I was always going to be famous. It was like, in my DNA. I got a taste of fame early on when I was the star of a local Telethon: the focus of a 24 hour live TV event to raise money for a children’s hospital. It was awesome! So I thought I’d better set about becoming famous for reals.

I studied journalism, television presenting and radio announcing. I decided I wanted to read the 6 o’clock news on the telly and I also wanted to read those bits on the TV after the ads but before the show: “This program, brought to you by Toyota!” You know the ones.

At uni I discovered radio was way better than television; less call for hair and makeup, more opportunity for ridiculousness, and I did it!! I achieved a small amount of fame for a little while. Not earth-shattering-Cate-Blanchett-style-fame, but people recognised me on the street, pubs let me jump the queue and shops gave me discounts. It was a super fun time!

Now, it was somewhere around this point that I started to royally fuck things up.

I jumped ship from my radio station, leaving my mediocre fame; seduced by the lights and the promise of more money on the other side of the country. Not long after that another company came along and promised me more money and more fame (which of course I was totally expecting), so I ran to them with open arms, just as the media company I was leaving was really transforming.

I never really hit my stride and I never really found my niche with the other company. I missed my opportunity. Slowly my star faded and I just became a worker bee, consigned to an irrelevant on-air shift that no one seemed to listen to. I took on more off-air roles that just consumed both me and my passion for radio. Where was my promised fame? Where was my name in lights? How did I mess this up so much? Was I really destined for the banal, the humdrum? Why wasn’t I reading the 6 o’clock news? How come bouncers weren’t letting me skip the line at the pub anymore?

I found myself angry and sad, overworked and underappreciated. I realised this wasn’t super fun anymore, but I had a mortgage now. Disillusionment set in with a thwack! Here I was, on the wrong side of the country, not rich and famous, doing a job that I now hated. How the hell did I get here? I’ll tell you: by my own bad decisions. I didn’t know they were bad decisions at the time but there’s not a single other person on this planet that I can blame for where I ended up. And trust me, I tried.

Then, I got made redundant; worst fear realised. “They hate me, I was crap at my job and they wanted me out” were the constant thoughts running through my head. I had never felt so low, so much like a disappointment. It was like all this hard work I had done was for nothing. And I still had that damn mortgage to pay.

But, sometimes you fear the worst, only to find out the worst isn’t really that bad. Actually, it’s nowhere close to what you were worried about.

No, these turns of events didn’t leave me living in the gutter, never getting out my pajamas or currently typing this on a shared computer at the library. I reincarnated myself. I’m currently living my life post radio, and guess what I do for a job? I read those bits on the TV after the ads but before the show: “This program, brought to you by Toyota!”. You know the ones.

These days I work from home. I run my own successful voice-over business. I get paid stupid amounts of money to read scripts that are only 30 seconds long. I’m the girl you hear during most of the ad breaks; sometimes selling you a car, sometimes convincing you to take a holiday. It doesn’t suck.

Life didn’t turn out the way I expected, and I have decided I’ll have to turn to reality TV to achieve my much needed fame, but it’s not all bad news.

I failed at my chosen career but I survived. Then again, did I fail? Or did I just get lucky?

Belinda Cotton is a professional voice-over artist who likes to drink beer, hang out with friends, listen to live music and travel. Preferably all four at the same time. She’d also like to have a dog and two cats, but so far no luck.

@Belyando

Guest Kween: BENJAMIN NORRIS “Australia RSVP’d Yes To My Wedding!”

Guest Kween: BENJAMIN NORRIS “Australia RSVP’d Yes To My Wedding!”

Five years ago I proposed to my partner in front of the country and today, Australia has RSVP’d ‘yes’ to our wedding invitation! So exciting!!

Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to grow up in the 60’s and 70’s and be a gay man. Would my choices in the way I expressed my sexuality be different? Would the impact of ‘gay hate’ felt in that era and the suppression of my true self, have made me different?

Then I think about the 80’s and 90’s, the decades that I grew up in, and how I was affected. At school, the teachers were just as damaging with their comments as the students. I learned to lie about my truth and mastered the art of hiding my sexuality. Inadvertently I taught myself that lying was okay because it was about protection. More importantly, I masked my private self-loathing which made me not believe in myself. Still, I’m sure it wasn’t as bad as what I imagined it had been for the gays before me.

Then I think about the following generation that grew up with Glee and Dawson’s Creek; where girls had the gay best friend at school. It felt like the world was changing and in some ways I was jealous.

I can tell the difference between the way I was affected by homophobia compared to my elders and I know my story is different to how Graham Kennedy felt years ago and how Joel Creasey feels now. Different battles at different times and we are making progress but it has been a journey.

Today I found out that my country will allow me the right to marry my fiancé. The marriage equality debate was served, like a final dish in Masterchef.

My partner and I have been together for eight years, engaged for 5. I have had offers from magazines to pay for my wedding due to the fact I stumbled across some media notoriety with my winning of Big Brother in 2012. You may not have watched the show but you probably remember the ‘gay proposal!’ Yet I said no to those offers because I wanted to wait for my country to give me their blessing. I am a patriotic Australian and I love my country. In some ways I could have just had a party and said it was marriage but it didn’t seem right, not without a certificate and official recognition. It was no longer about marriage; it was about equality.

In some ways I wonder if we hadn’t exploited our sexuality with explicit sexual content (like in Mardi Gras) and we had focused on words like ‘love’ and ‘equality’ earlier, maybe we wouldn’t have repulsed people so much? Which makes me realise how much this journey has really affected me, looking for blame within myself, within my community. So I waited for the answer, not wanting to be too loud with my inner monologue because I couldn’t bare to be hurt and I wouldn’t leave myself open to do so.

The plebiscite was put in place and I was mortified about what my country was actually going to say about my sexuality. It’s a direct example of my upbringing and the scars of being treated unfairly in my young adult-life. I watched on as they wrote ‘no’ in the sky and people fought aggressively in the streets, as a basic civil right was discussed openly- like a reality TV show ‘Who is going to win?’ I heard someone say.

I asked myself, why I am so scared? I asked myself, will this be our Brexit or our Trump?’ Why had I lost faith? As a breakfast radio host, I was told I was too gay by senior management. I was asked to tone it down. I cried for two weeks and tried to push it aside. I thought my sexuality wasn’t something of an appropriate conversation. I felt like a freak and I began to overthink everything. How had I allowed myself to be so badly hurt? It took months to lift my head to face level with other Australians. My confidence rocked to the core. My partner at times saw me reduced to a shadow in a room full of people. I had fallen apart.

Will the same-sex marriage result bring me happiness? I hope it will… today I feel like I could fly. I will never forget that time I didn’t know if Australia was willing to say that I was equal and I will wear these scars for my lifetime. However, I will continue to remind myself that is was worth it. So many people played a role in that and I thank everyone, LESBIANS, GAYS, BISEXUALS, TRANSGENDERS, INTERSEX and QUEERS. Also those allies. I just hope that my tears and my struggle will mean that your children won’t hurt the way I did. Most of all I hope Australia realises that I waited for their ‘yes’ and now I invite you all to my wedding and this new beginning. The beginning of acceptance. What we fought for was equality and love won.

Benjamin Norris is a reality TV star known for winning Big Brother in 2012. Ben has gone on to have a successful career in radio with a number one show in Queensland. He’s a serial blogger and has had TV roles on Foxtel and channel Nine as a guest presenter. Catch Ben next as he embarks on a 16-part podcast series interviewing LGBTIQ influencers on Joy Fm 94.9.

@BenjaminJNorris